Royal Opera House

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Royal Opera House

Royal Opera House
Article Image
The Royal Opera House at Night
The Royal Opera House in the London district of Covent Garden.
Artist Attributed to Peter Suranyi
Year 2009
Dimensions 11.4 cm^2 ( 4.49 in^2)
Location Covent Garden, London


After the British Civil War, only two theaters were instated for 28 years. Those theaters were the Drury Theater and the Royal Opera House. The Opera House burned down twice before the current building was built. Two years ago the Royal Opera House doubled its size and renovated the existing parts of the building. The total cost was over £200 million. The Royal Opera House now has two proscenium theaters and eight dance studios. There are also two sister dance schools that are considered amongst the most prestigious in the world next to France and Moscow.


The Royal Opera House did not start as the Royal Opera House. It was formally called Covent Garden and Theatre Royal. In the beginning in 1732, the theatre was a playhouse. The the fire in 1808 destroyed the theatre. The second Theatre Royal or Covent Garden was designed by Robert Smirke and opened in 1809. Sadly this was also destroyed in a fire in 1856. The theatre which stands today was built in 1858. This building was designed by Edward Middleton Barry,

According to the Royal Opera House history page, during World War II The Royal Opera House was used as a dance hall. Now the Royal Opera House is the home of both the Royal Opera, which was founded in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company, and The Royal Ballet which was founded in 1931 then moved to the house in 1946. [1]

Theater Space

Main Stage

The Royal Opera House Auditorium Stage Left

The original auditorium is used as the main theater. It has over 2,500 seats. The main stage is proscenium style with no apron. The stage is 15 meters square. The orchestra pit can fit 90-109 musicians. The floor of the pit is hydraulic and has three heights. The top level is used for concerts. The second level is used for smaller orchestra shows. The third and lowest level of the pit is used for large orchestra shows. This enables more musicians to fit in the pit and for dampening of the sound so the performers can be better heard. While it was recently redone, the auditorium retains its original renaissance style. It even still has a box for the royal family that was first created for Queen Elizabeth I. There is also an adjoining room for the royal family to eat and wait in before the show.

Linbury Studio

Linbury Studio

The Linbury Studio is the secondary theater used for smaller and experimental shows. It seats 400 guests. This stage is also in the proscenium style.


The Royal Opera House makes all of its own sets off-site in Thurrock. There the sets are fabricated, deconstructed and sent to the theater. Upon arrival at the theater, the tractor trailer holding the pallets filled with the set backs into a massive elevator. This elevator then brings the truck to the unloading bay where the pallets are stored on a conveyor system. This system is then integrated with the wagon system that Rolls Royce designed for the theater. The wagon system allows for extremely fast set changes between shows, only 20 minutes. The stage floor rests on three wagons with the rest of the set on top. The stage has a hydraulic floor system. To switch between shows, the current floor can be raised and transported out of the way allowing the new floor to slide and be lowered into place. That process takes only 40 seconds. The Royal Opera House is one of only two theaters to have this system.


The Royal Opera House would not be complete to make a show without it's Prop department. This includes of team of artists, sculptors, engineers and welders. Mostly all of the props are made in this department or acquired from warehouse storage. Beautiful props complete the performances and a lot of work goes into each production. Anything can be made and anything can be changed to look like something it isn't. For example, plaster, molds, and paint can be made to look like food. [2]

Lighting & Projections

Unlike many theaters, the Royal Opera House has their lighting fixtures located in a panel that can lower from the dome of the roof. When the lights are not needed for a show, the panels retract and blend in with the rest of the dome. This concept was to keep the proscenium free from truss and fixtures that would distract the viewer from the performance or obstruct their view. When the renovation was being done on the theater, the ETC lighting company received the contract to provide and setup numerous fixtures, consoles and a house control system. They also have lights on the back stage batons so that the dancers and singers can see on stage.


When the theater was rebuilt two years ago, the sound designers decided to remove the carpeting from the stairs and floors. This was to give the theater better acoustics because the singers or instrumentalists do not use microphones. There is not much need for a sound system for the operas and ballets because the performers do not have microphones and the music is provided by the orchestra.


The Royal Opera House makes all of their costumes in house. There are three sub-departments in their costume department. The first is in charge of creating costumes for the first performance of a show. The other two departments are in charge of care, maintenance and organization of the costumes. After the first show, costumes become their responsibility. They take care of laundry and mending any damage to the costumes. After a show has completed its run, costumes are then put into storage off-site until the next run of the show. Properly stored and cared for costumes can last for decades of use.


Pygmalion (1734)

Performance Summary

This performance was shown on the 14th February 1734 with Marie Sallé as Galatea and choreographer. [3] The music was by Jean-Joseph Mouret. The ballet plot was about Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, who carved a statue of his ideal woman and fell in love with her. [4] Aphrodite then brought the sculpture to life and Pygmalion married her. The name Galatea was the name given to the statue for this interpretation and other performances [4] This performance was put on when the Royal Opera House was called Convert Gardens before the second fire. According to an article on Marie, she danced in a muslin costume with her hair down and un-ornamented which emphasized her belief that dance should be natural. [5]


At the time, ballet dancers would dress in extravagant costumes with corsets. This did not give freedom for much movement. It was unheard of what Marie Sallé did in this performance. According to a review from her endeavor "For nearly two months Pygmalion has been given without any sign of failing interest...You can imagine, Sir, what the different stages of such an action can become when mimed and danced with the refined and delicate grace of Mlle. Sallé. She has dared to appear in this entree without pannier, skirt or bodice and with her hair down; she did not wear a single ornament on her head. Apart from her corset and petticoat she wore only a simple dress of muslin draped about her in the manner of a Greek statue." [5]

Marie was complemented in many reviews for her success & genius in her decision & performance. She even got to perform for the royal family and court of the day. One review about her performance said that, "Sallé had talents to open a thousand purses" [6] Apparently she could bring a lot of people to a theater and the theater made money. Overall, this performance was a breakthrough in ballet history with costumes and style.


  1. History. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2017, from
  2. Props to you! Prop-making tricks of the trade revealed - Royal Opera House. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2017, from
  3. Pygmalion (1734), accessed at <5 June 2017>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Reid, J. D., & Rohmann, C. (1993). The Oxford guide to classical mythology in the arts 1300-1900s (Vol. 2). New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Andros, D. (1991, May). Marie Salle, (1707-1756). Retrieved June 05, 2017, from
  6. Chazin-Bennahum, J. (2005). Reformers and Philosophes as Forerunners of the Revolution in Fashion. In The lure of perfection: fashion and ballet 1780-1830 (pp. 35-64). London: Routledge.

External Links

Royal Opera House Official Website